Bennett, Lapid reach compromise on haredi draft

Olmert reportedly to run if new election called; Channel 10: Bennett persuades Lapid to compromise on equalizing burden.

Lapid and Bennett at Knesset swear in 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lapid and Bennett at Knesset swear in 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
After three weeks of coalition talks, there has been no significant progress in negotiations between the two largest factions, Likud Beytenu and Yesh Atid, on the key issue of how to equalize the burden of IDF service.
But Yesh Atid did compromise on the issue for the first time over the weekend in ongoing talks with its political ally, Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett.
According to a Channel 10 report confirmed by both parties, Lapid agreed to Bennett’s request to increase the number of haredim who would be given draft exemptions from 400 to 2,000. He also acquiesced to haredim being drafted at age 21 rather than 18.
Bayit Yehudi representatives will discuss such compromises with their Likud Beytenu counterparts on Sunday after rejecting the Likud’s plan for equalizing the burden of service in a meeting on Friday. At the meeting, Bayit Yehudi representatives also raised the issue of compelling haredim to study the core curriculum, including English and math. Such issues were also raised in a Likud meeting on Friday with Shas leaders.
Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich blasted the political partnership of Lapid and Bennett in a letter to her supporters on Saturday.
“There is a ridiculous notion that has been promoted by brothers Lapid and Bennett, as if all of Israel’s problems will be solved if only more haredim are drafted to the IDF,” Yacimovich wrote. “We will lead the opposition and not join the government, not because we are disqualifying one party or another, but because our ideology does not intersect that of the government.”
In Bayit Yehudi’s talks with Likud Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi representatives asked to reopen the deal Likud Beytenu reached last Tuesday with The Tzipi Livni Party. But a source in Bayit Yehudi said the changes requested were not drastic and that Livni could live with them.
“Opening a deal that has been made is not ethical,” Livni warned in an interview on Saturday night on Channel 2’s Meet the Press program. “I don’t think the prime minister would break an agreement with me, I don’t think Yair Lapid would agree to that, and I won’t let it happen. I will stand for all the commitments in the agreement being maintained, period. These commitments were made to me, to my party and to the world.”
Livni blasted Lapid for making a deal with Bayit Yehudi, which she called a party that represents the opposite of what we in the Center-Left bloc want to advance. She expressed hope that both Yesh Atid and Labor would join her in the government.
“I hope Labor’s decision to remain in the opposition is not final,” she said. “My joining is an opportunity for Labor to reconsider. Shelly should realize the situation has changed.”
Defending her decision to join Netanyahu’s government, she said that “to be at the center of decision-making is not being a fig leaf.”
“I have not folded up any of my banners,” she said. “I didn’t do this for the personal good of Tzipi Livni. I came back to advance issues that are important for the country.I could not have stood on the side and raised my hands [in despair] when I could contribute.”
Bayit Yehudi’s chief coalition negotiator MK Uri Ariel called talk of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu initiating a new election because the coalition might not be able to be formed nothing more than political spin.
Ben Caspit reported on Friday in The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew sister newspaper Sof Hashavua that if a new election were initiated, former prime minister Ehud Olmert would run.
“I am running this time because the last election proved the public does not really want Netanyahu,” Olmert was quoted as saying in closed conversations. “I don’t care what my chances are or what people say. If Bibi doesn’t form a government and there will be new elections, I am running.”
Olmert’s spokesman dismissed the report as speculation.